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Do you thrive in Chaos? Or, do you like your creative endeavors to be orderly?

I have tried many tools to bring the balance between order and chaos into my life. I mean, I need to get the illustrations done; then it’s onto marketing, which is interrupted by meetings, that are done on skype or on the phone, but scheduled around picking up the kids, eating lunch and dinner, all the while trying to get a decent sleep.

So what works?

Obviously I use a calendar program but it is designed for a level of precision that is counter productive to the number of interruptions I receive on any given day. Scheduling a meeting for 1 hour on a Wednesday and having the reminders set up makes a lot of sense, but mixing in 4 to 24 hours of illustration on different projects is not the best use of a calendar program. I use mine for big important events that I have a hard time remembering. Sandra, my wife, has to continually remind me of everything from holidays, to kids events, or when we are having guests. What can I say, I’m too focused on work.

I have also tried to-do lists. However, once you write down 25 to do’s for the week it’s a little overwhelming and you start to forget to add new ones. The list format doesn’t work in this case because I’m trying to prioritize the next 3 days and a big list, no matter how it’s sorted, is hard to read. I have missed a few key items simply because I didn’t see them.

When I was learning about project management for my previous PMP I learned all about SCRUM boards. An overly simplified explanation of this is that teams, often software teams, use these to prioritise upcoming tasks and keep momentum moving on their projects. They come in all types of formats from index cards pinned on a wall, to elaborate software packages where you can color code and pass tasks around from person to person. They are super useful and I would recommend anybody learn about scrum methods for project management.

I ended up building for myself what I would call a personal scrum board.

Materials Required:

1 Piece of Foam Core

Green Masking Tape

1 Sharpie Marker

A stack of Post-it Notes

Green Masking Tape
Sharpie Marker
Post it Notes

It Ends Up Looking Like This

My daily personal scrumboard

How it Works

The board is divided into 6 days(Saturday and Sunday are combined). Every morning and evening I write out my to-do’s and place them on the board. If possible I try to keep the number to no more than 5 a day. There is no task too small or unimportant to add. I also include meetings that I have scheduled as well, even though they are already in my calendar. This system is great for planning out the next 3 – 5 days and gives me a visual of how much I have to do over the next few days. If I feel overwhelmed I simply move tasks down the line to a day where I have less to do. If I get done early I can take few smaller tasks from later in the week and get them done. Sometimes I even find time to just chill out and relax.

I still use my calendar program to plan meetings and phone calls, but by including them here as well, I can relax and know that I’m accomplishing a lot, not forgetting anything important, and laying out my week in a proactive way.

I’d love to make this into an iPad app, but the ability to write the notes down fast, with a marker, is really what makes this system so useful, so I don’t know that I would necessarily use it if it were an app.

What’s your process for getting things done?


About Michael

Michael Grills Illustration is located in Calgary Alberta Canada. The business was established in 2005 and since then I have been collaborating with design agencies, editorial, publishers, video directors, and game makers from all over the world. As well as doing art for illustration fans.